Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Brick Buddies - State Champions!

This weekend 5018 Brick Buddies, my daughter's FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team that I help coach and mentor, won the Florida state championship!

Brick Buddies went into the state championship ranked as the #6 team in the state (out of 72) and finished qualifying matches with a 5-1 record and in third place behind two undefeated teams from nearby Middleton High School in Tampa: 3846 Maelstrom and 4997 Masquerade. Masquerade is last season's world champion and also won this season's Kentucky state championship last weekend.

After a lot of discussion and examination of possible alliance partner picks, the team decided to accept an alliance invitation from 3846 Maelstrom rather than remain the captain of the #3 alliance. That was a little controversial because that almost certainly meant giving up any chance of going to the world championship, but after a long season of competing against both Masquerade and Maelstrom with zero success, the chances of beating both of them twice with any of the available alliance partners looked very low. Either of them would be perfectly capable of winning this season's world championship and it's a real shame that both won't get that chance.

With a solid #1 seed alliance of 3846 Maelstrom, 5018 Brick Buddies, and 3839 NeXT, they moved on  to the elimination rounds. They won their first semifinal matches to advance to the finals. After losing the first match, they came back and won two matches in a row to take home the championship.

The drive team (which is the entire team of three kids) did very well, winning 5 of the 6 qualifying matches and all three elimination matches they competed in. They made the most of line bonuses whenever possible and mixed offense and defense very well. They also made great use of taking away ownership of pegs to eliminate line bonuses by opposing alliances.

The hard work on autonomous mode programming, especially by Sumukh, resulted in them scoring the 50-point bonus ring in 4 of 6 qualifying matches and in the crucial final elimination match. That was far better than any other team did in autonomous mode, where the robot drives itself based on timing and sensor inputs. One of my favorite moments was when an opposing robot hit them and knocked them off course. The robot still found it's way back to the floor markings and followed them to end up in an almost perfect position to score the ring.

They did great in judging as well, winning the PTC Design Award and being finalists for the Rockwell Collins Innovate and Connect awards. They were the second runner-up for the top judged award, the Inspire Award.

My goals for the team all season were to make it to the state championship, get to play in the elimination rounds, and get mentioned as a finalist for the Inspire Award. They achieved all three, blowing away the first two.

All of this even more amazing considering that they are the smallest team in the state. Most teams are made up of about 10 high school students, often from engineering magnet schools. Ours was one high school sophomore and two eighth graders and runs out of the coach's driveway / living room. The kids aren't as short as they were last season, but they still get "that's the whole team?" comments.

It was great to see all the hard work by the kids, coaches, and parents pay off.  If anyone is interested in mentoring or joining FIRST robotics at any level, feel free to contact me or Shelley Kappeler, the head coach for Brick Buddies.
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